He Is Here To Transcend!
by MINA KAZMI
(PUBLISHED IN MAG-THE WEEKLY)
Emerging with a bang, he has threatened the doyens and gurus of the game of squash. He revitalised the declining state of squash and has managed to stand out with his exceptional performances. The 21-year-old, Aamir Altas Khan, has captivated the attention of the squash world with his remarkable victories and achievements, rapidly making his way up the ranking board with determination and perseverance. Aamir is the nephew of squash legend Jansher Khan and strongly feels that squash runs in his blood. MAG sat down with the young sportsman and asked him about his experience of the sport. Excerpts:
MK: First things first, congratulations on moving five places up in the ranking. What motivated you to play squash?
AK: Squash has been our family game. My father Atlas Khan, uncle Jansher Khan and uncle Mohibbullah Khan are all squash legends and I must say that I have squash running in my blood. I started off playing squash when I was 6 under the guidance of squash experts in my family. I have been motivated by such a strong squash background, that the title of World Champion has always captivated my attention. To secure that title for my country is the motivation that drives me to perform better.
Currently it has been noticed that Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) has failed to provide sponsors and staff members for the players who are willing to play internationally. What is your take on this matter?
PSF has a rule that if a player performs well internationally, only then is he capable of getting incentives. I believe that they should sponsor squash players particularly their current No.1 squash player regardless of such constraints. I play at least 13 international tournaments annually and I pay all my bills. If you compare the squash federations of the world with ours you will come to know that international players don’t have to face such financial constraints, lack of staff members or coaches. All these major facilities are provided to them by their respective sponsors or squash federations.
What are the financial requirments for a player to represent himself internationally?
Squash is an expensive game. As I have mentioned earlier, that I play at least 13 international tournaments annually, it requires an expenditure of Rs. 3.5 million a year. Coaches have to be paid and training costs a lot as well. A professional player requires finances up to Rs. 6 million! If a player can’t afford such a huge amount of money, how will he be able to represent Pakistan internationally? I personally believe, we are equipped with a lot of talent, but inefficient provision of finances and meager or almost no sponsors are dusting our talents.
What issues would a beginner in squash have to confront, if he/she wants to earn a reputed stature in this sport?
A beginner requires an expert who can assist him in learning the game. His basics need to be very strong. With weak basics and lack of proper training, it is very difficult for a player to survive. Squash is a game which you should begin playing at an early age to bear fruitful results in the future.
Who has been your inspiration in squash?
Jehangir Khan has to be my ultimate inspiration, a player who has managed to set world records. He stood unbeaten for a span of 5 to 6 years, which is simply incredible.
What were your sentiments after defeating Azlan Iskandar of Malaysia who stood 10th in the ranking?
I became very confident after beating him because he is a very strong player and beating him was not an easy task at all. This time I’ve defeated him on his home ground which spurred a lot of confidence in me.
How do you foresee the future of squash in Pakistan?
Pakistan has got a lot of squash complexes all over the country. The Hashim Khan Squash Complex in Peshawar has almost 250 to 300 kids playing and even though most of them aren’t sponsored with coaches the talent is still there. The only problem is lack of sponsors and funds because of which young players have to face a lot of hurdles.
What do you have to say about the risks of your early exit from the 23rd World Team Championship to be played in Paderborn?
The good news is that I’m finally back in the team for the World Championship.
After your exceptional achievements, where do you envisage yourself in the next five years?
Considering my present performances, I’m just 21 years old; most players who have achieved this kind of success and are on top are in their late 20s or early 30s. I plan on using my age to my advantage by working harder and achieving more in the coming years, Insha’Allah. I hope to be one of the top 4 in the international rankings but I would prefer attaining that position slowly and gradually. It is the dream of every player to be number one in their sport but to attain that privilege, one has to struggle hard. I would prefer going systematically.
Do you think that the media has not given you the kind of coverage and publicity that you deserve?
Yes, Pakistan has produced a great many outstanding squash players and if the media projects these players and their achievements it would be very beneficial for the country’s image in the world. Players should be credited and appreciated for their national or international achievements. Sadly today, squash players aren’t publicised by the media the way they deserve. If we can get publicity it will be easier for us to get sponsors.
Is there any message you wish to give to our readers?
Irrespective of the field you are in, do not run after shortcuts in life. They are going to lead you nowhere, only hard work and discipline can earn you a higher stature. Most importantly, do not get disheartened by failure or loss. Strive harder!